KSL Truth Test: Fact-checking claims from Utah GOP candidates fighting to replace Romney

Jun 10, 2024, 11:26 PM | Updated: Jun 11, 2024, 12:38 am

SALT LAKE CITY – Four Utah Republicans competing to replace retiring Sen. Mitt Romney in the U.S. Senate squared off on the debate stage Thursday night.

And while each candidate is entitled to his own beliefs and opinions, the KSL Investigators checked into their claims of fact. Here’s what our KSL Truth Test found following the debate featuring U.S. Rep. John Curtis, Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs, businessman Jason Walton and former Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson.

1. Election claims

Staggs made this claim about fraud during the 2020 election: “We saw so many evidences of fraud in this last election.”

KSL spoke with Utah Elections Director Ryan Cowley earlier this week about the notion of extensive voter fraud.

“We’ve never seen fraud significant enough in Utah to sway the results of an election,” Cowley said.

Beyond the state’s borders, there’s no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 general election, said Josh McCrain, an assistant political science professor at the University of Utah.

“These are things that we really, really need to push back upon because there’s very little to zero empirical evidence that there’s anything like voter fraud in U.S. elections,” McCrain said.

2. A record on taxes

Brad Wilson had this to say about tax cuts in Utah: “As speaker of the House, I ushered in the largest tax cuts in the history of this state.”

KSL got in touch with Rusty Cannon, the president of the Utah Taxpayers Association. He told us the claim checks out. Wilson and other lawmakers celebrated last year as Gov. Spencer Cox signed $400 million dollar tax cut praised as “historic.”

3. Immigration and crisis at the border

Both Wilson and Staggs talked about the number of migrants arriving in the U.S. during president Joe Biden’s administration.

“We’ve had 10 to 12 million people invade this country during the Biden Administration,” Staggs said.

For his part, Wilson said, “We’ve had tens plus million of illegal immigrants flood into this country creating a humanitarian crisis and a security crisis that we are all aware of.” To find specific numbers, the KSL Investigators turned to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Data on the agency’s website indicates it’s had about 9.9 million “encounters” with migrants from October 2020 through April 2024. The number includes people who were apprehended, along with those sent away without being held in the U.S.

4. An allegation of wrongdoing

In the final minute of the debate, Staggs appeared to imply wrongdoing by Curtis, saying, “on March 4th of 2020, Abbott Laboratories was awarded a federal grant. On that same day, John Curtis purchased stock in that company. This is the problem in Congress. At a time when somebody should be looking out for their constituents, they end up looking out for their own profit.”

Curtis shot back: “You’ve accused me of a felony here tonight. You better have very good evidence, and I’d like to challenge you to produce that evidence.” After the debate, Staggs said he made a “factual statement” about Curtis and was not accusing the congressman of a felony. Asked if he was accusing the congressman of insider trading, Staggs told KSL.com: “Look, what I’ve said is, on the same day the company was given a grant, he traded stock.”

Curtis noted he listed the investment on a House disclosure form but has since divested, KSL.com reported. “That was a cheap shot,” Curtis said of Staggs’ comments following the debate. “I think the thing that’s unfortunate about it is, Mr. Staggs, his whole campaign is about the dirtiness of Washington and how he’s going to go fix that. And I think he really showed his hand. … Let’s be straight up. If you feel that way let’s say it, but don’t do what you did.”

The KSL Investigators have reached out to all four candidates’ campaigns with additional questions as we continue to fact-check claims made during the debate.

Have you experienced something you think just isn’t right? The KSL Investigators want to help. Submit your tip at investigates@ksl.com or 385-707-6153 so we can get working for you.

KSL Investigates

Candidates for the Republican primary's Utah’s 3rd Congressional District in a televised debate a...

Daniella Rivera and Annie Knox

KSL Truth Test: Fact-checking GOP candidates in race for Utah’s open US House seat

The KSL Investigators looked into claims from five Republican candidates vying to replace Rep. John Curtis in the U.S. House of Representatives.

7 hours ago


Daniella Rivera and Annie Knox

KSL Truth Test: Fact-checking claims from GOP candidates for Utah governor

The KSL Investigators fact-check a range of statements from Utah's GOP gubernatorial candidates.

1 day ago

A debate for Republican candidates vying for Utah’s open U.S. Senate seat ended with a heated exc...

Daniella Rivera and Annie Knox

KSL Truth Test: Fact-checking claims from tense end to Utah GOP Senate debate

Utah’s Republican U.S. Senate primary debate ended with one candidate seemingly implying wrongdoing by another. The KSL Investigators put that claim through the KSL Truth Test.

2 days ago

(FILE) A test dummy getting hit by an air bag during a crash test....

Matt Gephardt and Sloan Schrage, KSL TV

Thousands of cars equipped with faulty airbags on Utah roads as automakers issues ‘Do Not Drive’ warnings

Auto manufacturers have recalled over millions of Takata airbags because of their potential to explode and shoot out sharp metal fragments. And there are still thousands of those in cars across Utah.

9 days ago

sprinkler sprays on green grass...

Matt Gephardt and Sloan Schrage

Get Gephardt: Layton man demands refund for decades of charges for water he can’t access

Imagine finding out you've been paying nearly 40 years for rights to water you're not only not getting, but that you can't get, because the pipes for it don’t exist.

10 days ago

Danielle Addicott showing KSL's Matt Gephardt the fraud charges that were on her Wells Fargo accoun...

Matt Gephardt and Sloan Schrage, KSL TV

Get Gephardt helps Utah woman who says her bank refused to refund stolen money

A Park City woman says thousands of dollars were stolen from her bank account, but the bank refused to cover her loss. She decided to Get Gephardt.

14 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light up your home with these top lighting trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for hassle-free computer repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

KSL Truth Test: Fact-checking claims from Utah GOP candidates fighting to replace Romney